One of the most valuable skills I’ve picked up over the course of my career, thus far, is how to successfully prepare for job interviews. Now, I haven’t always gotten the job offer, but the method I’m going to share with you has allowed me to enter an interview with confidence. Prior to entering the workforce full time I had a similar method, but over time I’ve learned new tips and adapted it to be more robust.
What I’m sharing is nothing too revolutionary, but hopefully gives you a framework to go into your next job interview prepared and confident.
Viry’s Method to Confidently Interviewing
Step One: Get Organized
No surprise here, but I use Google Suite to keep everything organized. This first part is totally optional, and you can use whatever products work best for you. When I’m interested in a new job I create a folder in my Google Drive and name it after the job I’m pursing. I then create two Google Docs within that folder. One is titled, [Job Description] Job Title and the other is titled [Interview Doc] Job Title. Afterward, I create a copy of the resume (I have a separate folder dedicated to just my resumes) I used to apply for the job and add it to the folder titled, [Resume] Job Title Year.
Now, everything is in one place and there’s no need to remember what resume was used to apply or go searching through folders for all documents.
Step Two: Understand & Research the Job
Copy and paste the full job description into the Google Doc titled [Job Description] Job Title. Oftentimes job descriptions will be taken down once enough folks are put through for interviews, so it’s helpful to have your own copy of what was published.
Read through it several times and highlight or bold words and phrases that stick out to you. At the end of the description summarize what you just read in five words. These words should answer the following question: Per the description, what skills/qualifications should candidates have for this job?
Step Three: Establish your Purpose
After reading the job description a few times and summarizing it in five key words, think about why you want to apply for this role. Something about it caught your attention. Maybe it was that you have the exact skills they listed. Maybe the team they describe got you really excited or maybe you’re passionate about the type of work. Whatever it is – capture it in a 3-5 sentence elevator pitch. This will be the first section in the Google doc titled, [Interview Doc] Job Title.
In most job interviews I’ve undergone the first question I’ve often been asked is, “Why are you applying to this job?” Rather than make something up I like to take time and reflect on answering this question well. It’ll be the first time speaking to someone who I may potentially be working with and I want them to know that I’m genuinely interested in their team and the work they do.
Step Four: Prepare Interview Question Answers
This next section of the [Interview Doc] Job Title will likely vary based on the type of job you’re applying for. I’ve mostly gone after roles within project management, so I focus on having answers to both behavioral and situational questions. Behavioral questions will have you recall a recent situation where you’ll summarize the situation and overall results (ex. tell me about a time you had to work with a challenging teammate). Situational questions will layout a hypothetical scenario you might encounter in the role you’re applying for to see how you’d carry out/react to certain situations.
I’ll just Google search 3-4 behavioral/situation questions that seem relevant to the job description and craft answers for them. Since I’ve applied to and interviewed for a few roles now I’ll pull questions from past interviews too, if relevant.
I’ll type out the question and in parentheses note briefly how this question is connected to the job. For behavioral questions I’ll type out my answer in the STAR format:
- S: Situation
What was the specific situation?
- T: Task
What was the task I needed to complete or goal I had to accomplish?
- A: Action
What actions did I take to complete the task/goal based on the situation I was facing?
- R: Result
Based on my actions what was the overall result of the situation?
For situational questions, I’ll list out questions that I’d ask the interviewer to ensure I have all the details needed to formulate a good answer. For example if the question is, “How would you handle it if your team resisted a new idea or policy you introduced?” I’d want to ask something like, “What are some of the reasons for resisting the policy idea?”
Step Five: Pull More Examples
Here I’ll list out all the bolded/highlighted words or phrases from the job description and provide quick examples of how those things relate to my experience or skill set. For example, I might see that the job description notes a strong communicator. As such, I’ll quickly list all the projects I’ve worked on where I heavily leaned on my communication skills.
I like to create this list in case I need more examples to pull from on behavioral questions or to highlight relevant experience as we go through the interview.
Step Six: Ask Questions
It’s good practice to have 3-4 questions prepared in case there’s time at the end for you to ask the interviewers questions. Usually you’ll only get to ask one, maybe two, but having options is good depending on where your interview conversation goes. I like to lean on one of two types of questions – team culture/growth and diversity, equity & inclusion. When I think about joining a new team I want to know that it’s a place that values its members and that I can ideally stay in that role for at least 2 years with plenty of opportunities to grow and develop professionally.
So, as you’re preparing your own questions think about what you’d like to learn from the interviewer. If they’re the manager maybe you’re curious on their management style or on the goals they have for their team this year. If your interviewer is another teammate you can ask them about how they feel on the team and if they see themselves there for a while longer.
Definitely put thought into these questions because it’ll further show more about what you value and the types of questions they can expect you to bring into team conversations. Even if you don’t have time to ask all your questions, you can always have them ready to easily have an excuse for more follow up.
Step Seven: Study!
Of course, all these steps only work if you take the time to a) complete each one thoughtfully and b) spend time reviewing each document. I usually put everything together a week before my interview(s) and two days before them I take time to review everything – the job description, my elevator pitch, my behavioral/situational question responses and my questions to the team.
Hopefully these seven steps help you in your next job interview and if you have any questions drop them below ↓
Note: These thoughts are all my own and are not speaking to any specific jobs nor is this affiliated with my employer.